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Teaching Nurses to CARE

New program offers cultural training for medical workers.

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Just days after celebrating the birth of civil- and human-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a national organization is confronting health-care disparities with training for front-line caregivers.

The new Cultural Awareness, Respect and Empowerment (CARE) program offers cultural training for nurses and nursing students and is sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The program, organized in response to a survey conducted by Aetna and NCCJ and funded through an Aetna grant, begins next week at St. Francis Hospital.

The survey found that the largest gap in perceptions of care were in terms of quality, with 28 percent of Americans saying that minorities receive lower-quality care than their white counterparts. Also, more than 40 percent of those surveyed cited a person's race as affecting their ability to get health insurance. CARE classes are designed to not only raise awareness of actual and perceived biases but to develop management, advocacy, and leadership skills to combat the problem.

"The nursing community was chosen because these are the frontline caregivers, and they are playing increasingly larger roles," said local NCCJ president Jim Foreman. "If we can help nurses understand, like everyone else in America, they have biases, they can have a more positive impact."

The initial class will be followed by two additional classes at St. Francis and will be offered at Baptist and Methodist hospitals in the future. The local NCCJ organized a committee of hospital administrators, physicians, and nurses to design the curriculum, and two of its members will teach the sessions.

"It was my suggestion to broaden the selection field [from newly graduated nurses] to include seasoned nurses," said St. Francis nurse manager Sherri Butler. "They have a broader base of experiences that they can build off ... and may be able to assess the situations differently from experience."

Nurses at St. Francis Hospital were chosen by managers and committed to follow-up questionnaires. The program will also track the nurses for five years to test its effectiveness.

E-mail: jdavis@memphisflyer.com

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